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Government faces continuing backlog in Unemployment Relief Program

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Posted: Monday, April 20, 2020. 9:23 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize has now approved about 45 percent of all applicants for the Unemployment Relief Program, but there still are nearly as many applications left to be approved as have already been approved.

In a press statement, Government announced it had approved nearly 33 thousand applications of more than 72 thousand submitted as at noon today. However, more than 11 thousand have been rejected for relief including those under 18 years of age, who are not Belizean nationals (applicable only if applying for long term unemployment relief, not applicable to the recently unemployed), or who are already a beneficiary of a Government of Belize or SSB pension, or the BOOST program – they are not eligible.

The Social Security Board has paid directly into the accounts of 20,153 applicants during the period of April 9 to 17.

Heritage Bank has prepared 2,618 top up ATM/debit cards which have been sent to SSB offices for distribution. Not all ATM/debit cards have been prepared, so applicants will be notified by text message when their cards are ready for pick up. Those who receive these cards will be required to activate a Personal Identification Number (PIN) so that they can withdraw their funds at the ATMs or use them for shopping at stores that accept debit cards.

Given the number of applications with incorrect information, the information technology team is preparing an addition to the web portal that will allow applicants to go online and review the status of their application. If additional information is required to move the application to the next stage, the applicant will be directed to the numbers to call to provide the information needed. This addition should be ready for use within the next two days.

But there are still many questions and discrepancies, including why it has taken so long to respond to applications; who gets how much ($150 every two weeks for those directly affected by COVID-19 related layoffs and $100 for longer-term unemployed); what the criteria are for applying and a general frustration with the process.

It has been noted that the staff, not from the Board but hired by the Government’s economic czars, have been quite overworked but have managed to get relief out quicker than in some countries.

The program is slated to continue over the next two months.

 

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